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Mississippi Small Claims Courts

Mississippi's Justice Courts hear small claims cases, which are certain civil disputes where the amount in controversy does not exceed $3,500. Parties to a small claims case do not need to hire an attorney. However, they can hire an attorney if they wish.

If you have questions about Mississippi's Justice Courts and small claims cases, consider browsing the following links:

This article describes Mississippi's Justice Courts and small claim process. For more information, consider contacting a civil litigation attorney.

Mississippi Small Claims Court Explained

Mississippi does not technically have a small claims court. As noted above, Mississippi's Justice Courts hear all small claims cases.

Adults, businesses, partnerships, and corporations may file small claims cases in the Justice Courts. They can sue any person, business, partnership, or corporation.

Mississippi designed its small claims procedure to allow non-legal professionals to resolve their minor civil cases in a quick and inexpensive way. The flexible and informal court proceedings at the small claims trial allow parties to represent themselves at the trial. However, any party that wishes to hire an attorney may do so. 

While most parties do not need to hire attorneys, a corporation filing a small claims case must retain an attorney.

The Justice Court may award up to $3,500 in a single small claims case. A plaintiff's amount in controversy cannot exceed the jurisdictional limit of $3,500. If a claim exceeds $3,500 the plaintiff must file their case in one of the following courts:

  • County Court
  • Chancery Court
  • Circuit Court

The Mississippi Judiciary has information regarding its court system and about where to file a claim.

Either party may request a jury trial instead of a bench trial. The party requesting a jury trial must make their request before the scheduled hearing.

What Is a Small Claims Case?

In the state of Mississippi, a small claims court case is a minor civil case of $3,500 or less where the plaintiff seeks money or the return of personal property. Examples of small claims cases include the following:

Examples of civil suits the Justice Court cannot hear include the following:

  • Domestic matters (e.g., divorces or child support disputes)
  • Cases where the plaintiff requests the defendant take an action, like removing a structure

The Justice Court also has jurisdiction over misdemeanor criminal cases and minor traffic infractions. These types of cases are not small claims cases.

How To File a Small Claims Case

The plaintiff starts their small claims case by filing a written statement, sometimes called a statement of claim or complaint, with a court that has jurisdiction over the defendant. The written statement must set out the following information:

  • The names and contact information of the parties to the lawsuit (the plaintiffs and defendants)
  • A description of the events giving rise to the cause of action
  • The legal basis for the plaintiff's claim
  • The relief the plaintiff seeks (i.e., money or the return of property)

The plaintiff may also attach evidence that supports their claim, such as receipts, contracts, or evidence of a debt.

The plaintiff must pay the court clerk a filing fee before the court accepts their small claims case. The court may award the plaintiff their filing fee and other court costs if they win their case. If you cannot afford the filing fee, you may request a fee waiver from the court.

The court clerk can provide you with additional information about filing the statement. They cannot give any legal advice.

Where and When To File

The court must have jurisdiction over the defendant to hear a civil dispute. Therefore, the plaintiff must file their case in an appropriate venue.

Often this means the plaintiff must file their small claims case in the Justice Court located in the county where the defendant lives. If the plaintiff sues multiple defendants, they may file the case in any county where one of the defendants lives.

Mississippi law also allows a plaintiff to file their case in the county where their cause of action arose. For example, if the plaintiff claims the defendant damaged the plaintiff's property and owes them money for repairs, often they can file the case in the county where the alleged damage occurred.

Each civil cause of action has a statute of limitations, a period in which a plaintiff must file their claim. State law sets the statute of limitations, and it varies based on the type of claim the plaintiff brings. For example, a plaintiff in Mississippi who has a personal injury claim must file it within three years of the date they sustained the injury. Read FindLaw's Mississippi Civil Statute of Limitations Laws article for more information.

Serving the Defendant

After the plaintiff files their claim, the plaintiff must ensure the defendant receives notice of the small claims case filed against them. To do so, the plaintiff must ensure someone serves the defendant with, among other documents, the written statement and a court-issued Summons.

Once the court accepts the plaintiff's filing, it will issue a Summons and arrange for its service on all named defendants. The court will charge the plaintiff a service fee to serve the defendant. The court may use the fee to pay the sheriff's office to serve the defendant. The court may charge them additional fees if the plaintiff sued multiple defendants.

If the sheriff or their deputies are unsuccessful in serving the defendant, the court clerk can provide you with more information about how to serve the defendant. Other methods may include sending the forms via certified mail with a return receipt requested or hiring a private process server.

Once the court, sheriff, or process server serves the defendant, the plaintiff must file a proof of service with the court. Failing to serve the defendant will prevent the court from hearing the case.

Responding to a Small Claims Case

Once the defendant receives the Summons and other court documents, they must file a response (called an answer) to the lawsuit. If they do not dispute the plaintiff's claims, they can file a response indicating that.

If they dispute the plaintiff's claims, the defendant may file an answer explaining why they dispute it. This may include legal defenses to the claim, and they may attach evidence supporting their defenses.

If the defendant has claims against the plaintiff, they may file a file a counterclaim (also called a setoff). The claims generally must arise out of the same transaction or occurrence from which the plaintiff's claim arises. If the counterclaim exceeds $3,500, the court may transfer the case to the Chancery or Circuit Court if the parties agree to the transfer.

Regardless of how the defendant wants to respond, they must file their response within five days of the return date listed on the Summons. The return date is the small claims court date.

Before the Small Claims Hearing

The parties may try to settle their case before the small claims hearing. If the parties resolve the case, they must tell the court clerk about the settlement.

While preparing for the small claims hearing, parties may secure evidence that supports their claims or defenses. For example, in a contract dispute, the parties may want to introduce copies of contracts, leases, or other communications as evidence.

Parties may also secure witnesses to testify at the hearing. A party may request a subpoena from the court to compel a witness to appear at the hearing to testify. A subpoena is a court order compelling someone to appear or produce documents before trial.

The Small Claims Hearing

The parties to the case must appear for their small claims court hearing. Failing to appear could negatively affect the party. For example, if the plaintiff fails to appear, the court may dismiss their case. The court may enter a default judgment in the plaintiff's favor if the defendant fails to appear for the hearing. If the plaintiff receives a default judgment, they will win their case, and the defendant will have to pay some or all of the plaintiff's claim, fees, and costs.

A Justice Court Judge will preside over the small claims court hearing unless a party requests a jury trial. Small claims court hearings are relatively informal compared to cases in the District Court or other courts. The judge will address the parties in open court, and they may take a more active role than they would in a more formal trial or hearing.

The plaintiff will present their case once the court swears in the parties. Once they rest their case, the defendant can respond to the plaintiff's case. Both parties may introduce evidence to support their claims or defenses and call witnesses to testify. If one party calls a witness to testify, the other party may cross-examine the witness.

If a party requested a jury trial, the jury will deliberate the case and return their verdict. If a judge presided over the case, they may issue their decision at the end of the trial or issue their decision at a later date.


Either party may appeal the small claims court's judgment if they wish. The appealing party must file a Notice of Appeal and pay the court clerk a bond worth double the judgment's amount to pursue an appeal. They must file the Notice of Appeal and pay the bond within 10 days of the judgment's issuance.

Any party considering an appeal may want to contact a civil litigation attorney. Filing an appeal is time-consuming and expensive when compared to the small claims court process. The reviewing court will follow formal rules of procedure and evidence, and you must follow formal appellate procedure. A civil litigation attorney can help you prepare for the appeal.

Satisfying a Judgment

The small claims court's judgment will determine who owes whom money or property. The person or entity owed money is the judgment creditor, and the party that owes money or property is the judgment debtor. The judgment creditor is responsible for collecting the money or property from the judgment debtor.

The parties may discuss how the debtor will pay the creditor the money owed or return the property at issue. If the debtor does not pay the creditor the money owed, the creditor may request the court's assistance in satisfying the judgment. Methods to enforce the judgment include the following:

  • The creditor may file the judgment with the clerk of the Circuit Court and obtain a lien on the debtor's real or personal property.
  • The creditor may request that the court garnish the debtor's wages or bank accounts. If the court allows a wage garnishment, the debtor's employer will withhold money from the debtor's wages and send the withholdings to the court. The court will then distribute the money to the creditor to satisfy the judgment.
  • The creditor may request that the sheriff execute on the debtor's personal property. This allows the sheriff to seize and sell some of the debtor's property to satisfy the judgment.

Contact the court clerk for more information about these and other enforcement methods. Alternatively, consider contacting a civil litigation attorney who can help you file the appropriate paperwork to satisfy a judgment.

Contact an Attorney

If you plan on filing a small claims case or received notice of a lawsuit against you, contact a civil litigation attorney. They can provide helpful legal advice throughout your small claims case, including a litigation strategy, how to file a claim, and how to serve the defendants. An attorney will help you enforce a judgment in your favor or protect some of your assets if you lose your small claims case.

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